Canker sores: Bioengineer working on bioadhesive patch to treat ulcers

A sore on a lower lip

Image: Texas A&M Health Science Center

Canker sores are annoying and painful. There are few good treatments, so most people are left waiting them out. Soon, a novel treatment may change all that.

Xiaohua Liu, an assistant professor at the Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry, is developing a bioadhesive patch to treat oral ulcers like canker sores (or to be technical, aphthous ulcers). A bioengineer by training, Liu hopes that he and his team can create a product to deliver medication more efficiently.

“What we’re trying to develop is a patch that has the drug pre-loaded into it, so that we can control how the medication is released and we can be very specific about where it goes,” Liu said. “We designed the patch with a multiple layer structure so that we can force the drug to be released onto the site of the oral ulcer.”

Liu’s collaborator, Yi-Shing Lisa Cheng, an associate professor of diagnostic sciences at the College of Dentistry, sees patients with multiple ulcers, including canker sores, and she brought the problem to Liu.

Canker sores don’t have a single known cause. They might be brought on by injury to the mouth such as biting one’s tongue or repeated rubbing by braces or other oral devices, but they seem to also be triggered by diet, hormones or emotional stress.

“The bioadhesive patch that Dr. Liu is developing will help us not only to protect the ulcers from physical irritation by food or oral structures, but also to deliver the drug to the place it needs to be, which will prevent overdose and possible local side effects,” Cheng said.

The next step for Liu and Cheng is to test the patch for safety and effectiveness in animal models and eventually progress to clinical trials in people.

More at the Health Science Center

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